First this morning I read an article about how libraries, once frightened of how the Internet would wreak havoc on visitorship, have seen a huge upturn in use over the last several years, primarily due to visitor’s use of the Internet. Libraries are teaching classes on internet usage, providing computer access for patrons, allowing free wi-fi access for their visitors with laptops, and increasing their inventory of DVD’s, CD’s, and audio books. Turns out the Internet was good for libraries after all. Who knew?
Then I read about Republican Representative Mark Steven Kirk of Illinois, who has submitted a bill to congress to ban the use of Facebook and MySpace by children in public libraries without parental consent. Like we need to turn our librarians into the Internet police.
Of course librarians don’t want to have anything to do with policing their patrons; ultimately, libraries and librarians are on the side of Freedom of Speech at all costs. Whenever Homeland Security, the FBI, the police, or any other governmental agency has attempted to reduce library patrons’ free speech rights, libraries have fought back with the most comprehensive and powerful weapon known to man: knowledge. In other words, they’ve stood their ground when it comes to free speech rights for library patrons, and will not be backing down any time soon.
Certainly Representative Kirk can find something a little more worthy to do with his time. Why is it we do not let parents take on the job of policing their children on the Internet? That is their job, after all, and certainly not the domain of librarians across the country.